Turn-of-the-century New York is plagued by an elusive serial killer.
Molly Murphy returns from abroad (City of Darkness and Light, 2014, etc.) to a delightful surprise. She and her young son, Liam, had spent time in Paris with her bohemian friends Elena “Sid” Goldfarb and Augusta “Gus” Walcott after her house was destroyed by a bomb. Now her police captain husband, Daniel Sullivan, leads her to the rebuilt house, which he has made as much like the old one as possible. Since he’s not fond of Sid or Gus, Daniel asks his mother to come and help Molly set up the new home while he works on a difficult case. The only thing connecting a series of murders, some of which look like accidents, seem to be gloating notes sent to Daniel. As a former private detective, Molly is always eager to help Daniel, who’d prefer that she stay home with Liam. When Molly and Liam are almost killed in an elevated train accident, and another note arrives on the heels of the wreck, there’s no stopping Molly, who wonders if someone has a personal vendetta against Daniel. She carefully follows up each of the deaths in search of some link among them. Meanwhile, she helps Sid and Gus, recently returned from studying with Freud in Vienna, investigate the problems of a young girl whose parents were killed in a house fire. Young Mabel Hamilton is having such awful dreams that her aunt asks the pair to visit and see if they can help. The police suspect Mabel of murdering her parents because she was found asleep and unhurt in the back garden. As Molly and Daniel continue their apparently separate inquiries, a sinister pattern emerges.
Bowen shrewdly explores the tension between a husband and his very independent wife as they both work to solve a complicated series of murders. One of Molly’s best.